Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 5: Where was I?

This gorilla was in the jungle. That's the truth. Well, honestly, I was in there for many hours, traveling in a bus or coach as some would say. I arrived in my favorite city, Kuching, Sarawak's state capital.

It was a first trip by slow-actually it wasn't; more about it later-coach. Usually, I went by air and in the old days this meant via MAS. Nowadays, we're talking about Air Asia.

By coincidence, before the Monday tragedy in West Malaysia whereby 20 died, on Sunday night as I was in the coach, I was imagining all along the long journey to Bintulu, Sarikei, Serian and finally Kuching how fragile life was when a person had to sit in a frightfully fast-moving vehicle which was almost like a sealed casket. There wasn't even an emergency exit. The glass window panes were huge and thick. When I looked out I could see deep gorges and ravines on both sides of the bumpy roads. All it needed was a burst tyre (tire) and that was it!

How fast was the bus moving? We left at 8:oo P.M. from the Miri Bus Terminal at Pujut. By 8:18 P.M. we had reached the Miri waterworks station, a place I had once been invited to when it was first declared open by a minister and I was a promising star in a certain political party.

That was an amazing speed for the coach to reach the station as I had just been to Lambir National Park a week earlier. It took me 30 minutes by car, traveling at about 70km/hour from Pujut corner where the station is located.

Briefly, some interesting observations along the way:
A) I didn't see a single animal along the way; in the past, I had seen snakes, a chameleon and monkeys;
B) I saw at least three separate native families bathing and washing clothes in two
separate pools of fresh water and a stream;
C) open burning for padi cultivation was less; only 3 cases of open burning was seen;
D) some parts of the highway were unpleasantly bumpy. A journal of mine fell from my bag which was placed in the baggage compartment above our heads
to the floor of the coach;
E) the coach stopped at least 4 times along the way at coffee houses. This allowed everyone to ease themselves or to grab some chow;
F) it was an unpleasant experience in Serian when I answered the call of nature and even though the coach driver had been informed of my visit to the washroom near the Serian Bus station, he almost drove off without me! I heard his coach's horn blow and as I rushed out I could see the coach driving off towards the junction...;
G) the bus companies should always 1) tell all passengers the length of the break and 2) do a head count before leaving a place of rest; other companies did so, as I recall but this particular company didn't do so, except on the way to Miri from Kuching;
H) a cop did a good professional check of ICs at around 11:30 pm after the coach left Bintulu. He was courteous but the 11:30 p.m. time wasn't the most happy time for many as it was bedtime in the vehicle;
I) there were 2 drivers who took turns to drive and to rest. This was a reassuring sight;
J) the large TV set didn't work and the explanation by the company in Kuching was that the set had broken down due to the bumpy roads.
k) I killed at least 8 small hungry roaches which apparently crawled out from the corner compartment which housed the air-conditioning engine. At that time, we were just leaving somewhere past Serian and no one else was sitting in the back row seats.

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